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Is Less More? – Part 1

July 22, 2011

Having dialogued with corporate training managers for over 10 years now, I have been exposed to a discernible trend towards less: less classroom time, less face-to-face interaction, and fewer hours of training to address a given performance gap. This results in shorter training interventions, shorter and less dense case studies, little or no pre-work, and less time away from work – the latter often being a requirement from line managers. The classic  week-long off-site residential in-company training program – though we still run plenty of them- is gradually being supplanted by shorter programs. Why sit through 1 week of training if you can get SO much more done online as part of your normal working day?

No surprises, right? We all know we live in an ever faster paced world. Less is often seen as more, and I am a proponent of this. Keep it simple, straight to the point and don’t waste people’s time.

But in the case of quality training, the question that remains unanswered in my mind is: How beneficial is LESS? At the root of my question are “attention span” and “share of mind”.

I recently shared an article on Facebook from a Harvard Business School Blog site authored by Tony Schwartz, titled “Take Back Control of Your Work (and Life)” (http://blogs.hbr.org/schwartz/2011/03/take-back-control-of-your-work.html). Tony argues that we live in a cluttered world and that we should, among other things, manage the input/output channels in a way that allows us to focus on one task at a time. Give yourself space for contemplation and manage (not be managed) by technology. He emphasizes that tools such as our iPads, Smartphones, Skype, Twitter, live chats,  cell phones, etc… can all be good for productivity, if managed properly.

Within minutes of sharing the article on Facebook, the comments started to pour in. It was remarkable to see how the article resonated with people across the generations, professions, backgrounds, and cultures. Most people seem to be struggling to manage today’s constant buzz of input and output from the variety of channels we have open 24/7. Our minds have become more and more cluttered and share of mind is ever harder to get. I would even dare to say that some people (particularly outside of the Millennial generation) yearn to read a book instead of articles; watch a 2-hour movie instead of video clips; participate in a monographic discussion instead of jumping from Tweet to Tweet.

So how does this relate to training you ask? And when is less more? More thoughts on those question in upcoming blogs. Meanwhile I invite your comments and opinion.

By Alexandre Moreira

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